ALEXEI Eremenko yesterday paid a back-handed compliment to the Kilmarnock fans, as he looked forward to the “three cup finals” which will mark the end of the Ayrshire side’s season, and perhaps his relationship with the Rugby Park side.
“At least, it hasn’t been like Lecce,” said the Finnish internationalist, as he recalled the closest he has ever been to the survival battle he and Killie are currently embroiled in – during his time in Serie A with the Italian club between 2004 and 2006.
“I have never been in a relegation play-off situation before,” he said.
“But, at Lecce, we were on a bad run and the fans were turning up at the training ground, breaking the windows on some of the players’ cars and threatening us, it was scary. But, it was a mad place. If we won, we could fill up our cars with petrol and not be charged, then, if we lost, we would be charged double.”
Lecce avoided relegation and Eremenko is certain Killie will do likewise, although he acknowledges, the club has badly under-achieved this season.
“I believe, with the players we have here, we could and maybe should be a top three club but, right now, the confidence level is low. We players have to stay calm, not get too frustrated and not feel guilty. This is not the time for recriminations, we should be holding together to get us out of this mess, then talk about it post-season. Yes, this is a lot harder than being in a title race but with such a tight situation between all five teams, we have nothing to lose.
“I am absolutely confident we can avoid the play-off place but in effect, we face three cup finals. We are not yet thinking of the nightmare of going down, we can and I think will, stay up.”
These three games may well be Eremenko’s last with Kilmarnock. His short-term deal expires at the end of the season, and while he admits he and his family love Ayrshire, he isn’t thinking of next season yet and certainly isn’t thinking of Hibs, the club he was linked with back in January.
“Hibs was never really an option back then. If I returned to Scotland, it was always going to be with Kilmarnock for me, but as to how much longer I am here, that will be settled once the season is finished,” he added.
Alexei Eremenko was helping to promote the Tesco Bank Football Challenge which is a collaboration between the sponsors and the SFA.
Yesterday’s finale at Rugby Park was the culmination of a six-week coaching session involving 400 pupils from 25 primary schools in East Ayrshire, introducing football to Primary two and three children.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
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